Do you ever pay attention to how you communicate? How present are you when you’re actively communicating? Are you “listening,” whilst formulating your response or are you paying attention to what is being said, by whom and in what context? Listening is also about observing someone’s behaviours instead of just hearing the words.
Letting go of our ego so we can be present
Mind reading is a skill that most of us wish we had, right? Instead of placing this level of expectation on ourselves and our loved ones, how about we practice better communication through awareness and looking at things objectively, instead of from a place of ego, defence and reaction from our childhood conditions?
There’s more to communication than just our words
Communication is more than the use of our words. Most of our communication is actually non-verbal, so it’s important that we adjust the way we communicate depending on who we’re communicating with. You may question whether you’re being true to who you are, although tailoring our communication to our audience is more about understanding who we’re communicating with instead of us being fickle or lacking substance.
Accepting there is more than one side of who we are
Healthy communication is about acknowledging and accepting that we have multiple facets to our being and can tailor our communication skills and methods to our audience without questioning the integrity of our being. You’re not betraying your essence by demonstrating the multiple facets of your personality or adjusting the way you communicate with different individuals.
Creating safe spaces
For honest communication, there’s a need for the ability to create a safe space for others – an openness, a softness to welcome communication that comes from open-mindedness and a place that is free of judgement. In order to create this safe space, it’s vital to consider the tone of our voice, what we’re saying and the language we use, as well as our actions and behaviours, including our gestures, attitude and facial expression.
So, as I practice living consciously, I notice this in different relationships and being able to communicate ensures that I stay true to my Self and my needs and creates an honest, reciprocal communication with each experience starting by indicating how I make changes.
Let’s take a few examples of how observing and making small adjustments can lead to improving communication and serving everyone’s needs…
Observation is key to understanding
I have a friend, who I noticed through observing the behaviour on multiple occasions, is often on social media. Every so often, he has a need to be active on social. I’ve only recently become active on social and it’s mainly to offer or receive some inspirational thoughts, so my need is different.
I am, however, a big believer in being present when you’re in or with company. I communicated this verbally several times and it came to my understanding that whilst social isn’t a “need” as such for me, especially in company… it is a need for my friend. So, now when I see this particular friend, I bring my book with me so that when he’s satisfying his social needs, I too can make use of my time by doing something that I love and it works! This allows us to create a conscious safe space for our friendship that moves away from any type of build up of resentment or regret.
Listening to make adjustments
I have another friend who really tries to make a plan a little in advance and then usually has to cancel. I, on the other hand am a planner. After noticing on several occasions that he overcommits himself (with a genuine intention) and then has to cancel and feels guilty for it, I started leading the conversation or “plan-making” attempts down a different path. By giving more flexibility and removing any expectation or obligation, now I say, “why don’t you give me a shout when you’re done and we can assess then if it’s not too late or catch up another time.”
This means that instead of planning around a tentative plan, I can get on with whatever I’m doing and so can my friend and there’s a freedom in the flexibility without either of us feeling like we’re sacrificing or weighed down by guilt or obligation.
I raised this with my friend later by saying that making plans doesn’t work well for us, so I’ve adjusted the approach to relieve both of us from something that doesn’t sit well with us i.e. for having to cancel and at the same time, I save my time and energy by getting on with whatever I’m doing. By saying, “let’s see what happens…” in my head, I take it as a non-plan so I’m not rearranging or planning around the tentative plan and then it’s a bonus if we do meet and no big deal if we don’t.
By communicating my observations and listening to my family, friends and colleagues (their needs and with consideration for mine), I can consciously improve communication in my day-to-day life, which ultimately improves my relationships.
In summary, here are my top three tips to help improve communication:
- Actively listen (avoid distractions like phones and figuring out your responses and just be present without making it about you)
- Observe words and actions – yours and the other person’s
- Make adjustments without sacrificing your needs to create a safe space for open, honest communication
Can you see how being present to actively listen, observe and with a willingness to adapt and change, we can create healthy spaces for our relationships to improve?